Abortion clinics could get “buffer zones” to stop protesters hassling staff or patients, Labour has suggested. Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Britain should be looking at rules in force in countries such as the US and France, where photography and filming are restricted near such sites.
The intervention comes after a video surfaced showing demonstrators outside a clinic in London being confronted by a pregnant woman. The footage, which spread through social media, showed the unidentified woman telling them to stop “judging” those who decided to have abortions.
Cooper said organisations such as BPAS had warned about an increase in protests outside abortion clinics, with some patients being challenged with distressing images or filmed as they enter and leave. She urged the Government to consult with health providers and the police on “buffer zones” or “bubble zones”, which bar demonstrators from getting within a certain distance or barracking women.
Cooper wants ‘buffer zones’ to prevent ‘intimidation and harassment’
“Women need to be able to attend sensitive health care appointments – including abortion services – without facing intimidation and harassment,” Cooper said. “And health care workers need to be able to do their jobs without intimidation too. We don’t want the kind of harassment and abuse that we’ve seen in the US imported into Britain.”
Asked about the issue, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “It’s such a difficult decision for any woman to make, to have an abortion, that they need proper protection – that is really important, that’s got to be a non-negotiable.”
Miliband, who was facing questions from a young audience at a Leaders Live event organised by voter engagement group Bite The Ballot and streamed by YouTube and ITV News, added that the “right to protest is important but I don’t think women should feel intimidated going into an abortion clinic”.